Dave Murray (photo by Ken Settle)

Adrian Smith (photo by Rod Snyder)

Janick Gers (photo by Rod Snyder)

Click here to see a photo gallery of Iron Maiden's 2010 touring gear.
Disney teen queen Miley Cyrus garnered a ton of press last year by sporting Iron Maiden T-shirts in various well-timed photo ops. When some of the more protective acolytes of the pioneering metal band from east London began saying she was a “poser,” she attempted to prove her authentic-fan status by uploading a video of herself naming Maiden songs to the web. None of us is losing any sleep over whether Cyrus’ shirts sporting the band’s famous “Eddie the Head” mascot were the fashion accessory of the week or signs of true fandom (we can only hope the latter), but it’s probably fair to say that, long after her 15 minutes are up, Maiden will continue adding to their chapter in the history books as they have done for decades. Celebrity is one thing. Longevity is something else entirely.

In their 35-plus years as perhaps the greatest metal band of all time, Iron Maiden has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. They led the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and they forever changed the sound of heavy metal. Directly or indirectly, Maiden’s influence permeates the sound of countless bands from yesteryear and today—including hot-shot young bands like Avenged Sevenfold, Dragonforce, and Trivium. In fact, it’s fair to say that classic Maiden albums likeThe Number of the Beast,Piece of Mind, and
Powerslaveare essential listening for any true headbanger.

Like their iconic, zombified mascot, Maiden shows no signs of faltering— even in the midst of an economic crisis and the changing face of the music industry. The band’s latest release and 15th studio album,The Final Frontier, debuted at #1 in 28 countries and at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart in the US, making it their highest-charting US release ever. The album—which is also the band’s longest to date at 76 minutes and 34 seconds—features the expected epic compositions imbued with some unusually challenging prog-inflected escapades.

Premier Guitarrecently caught up with Maiden guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers to get the inside scoop on The Final Frontier. About an hour before doors opened at their sold-out show at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey, we sat down for the interview at a hotel 40 miles away in midtown Manhattan. The band was pretty wrapped up in the final game of the World Cup, but Murray, Smith, and Gers soon got around to amiably discussing the new album and divulging secrets of the Maiden sound before making the trek back to the venue.

What was the songwriting process for this album?

Murray:It was pretty much the same as always. Everyone would bring in ideas, which eventually went to Steve, who is like the nucleus of the band. He’d take the parts and get the songs into shape. He also wrote a lot of the lyrics on this album.

Smith: Because Steve’s a bass player, he thinks a little bit differently. He gets you to play things you normally wouldn’t play and sometimes it can be a bit uncomfortable. “El Dorado” was Steve’s song, and he had everything written down to the last detail from start to finish. With Steve’s stuff, you have to play it exactly the way he hears it and that can be very rigorous. Janick volunteered to do the parts. Steve showed him what to play, and it took Janick a lot of work to do it the way Steve wanted him to.

That’s how it used to be in the old days when Steve would write a lot of songs. We’d sit down and go through it the way Steve wanted it, even so far as the picking accents, using downstrokes or upstrokes.

Gers: There’s no set way of doing it, and that keeps it fresh. I think if you get into the rut of doing it the same way every time, you lose the spontaneity. You never quite know what’s going to work and what isn’t. I’ve brought in stuff that I thought was amazing and it didn’t get on the album.